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Harriton High School

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Confirmed Case of Pertussis at Harriton High School

Dear Harriton Families,

On February 6, 2020, we notified you of a laboratory-confirmed case of pertussis at Harriton High School. The Montgomery County Department of Public Health notified us today of another case, in a 11th grade student at HHS. Pertussis continues to be a persistent presence in recent years in the community, in Pennsylvania and throughout the country. It is likely that additional cases of pertussis will be confirmed at Harriton and at other LMSD schools. We will continue to provide information about pertussis -- including any additional confirmed cases -- on the Harriton website. Please review the following information about pertussis:

  • The pertussis cases in LMSD have occurred in individuals who have been immunized (vaccinated). Immunization is effective in preventing serious illness from pertussis. Immunized individuals who have been exposed to pertussis may develop the disease when their immunity wanes. Pertussis outbreaks have been occurring in many communities in recent years. We have had cases in Lower Merion School District every year for the last several years in students who are immunized.
  • Students and adults who are immunized for pertussis usually do not get severe illness if they contract pertussis. They often have a mild version of the illness and may not suspect pertussis. Even mildly ill people with pertussis can transmit the disease unknowingly to others who are in danger of very serious illness. Infants are at high risk for severe illness and even death. Also at higher risk are the unvaccinated, those who have serious health issues and immunocompromised individuals.
  • Pertussis is considered a reportable communicable disease. Positive lab results must be reported to the local health department by the health care provider. The Montgomery County Office of Public Health notifies us of confirmed cases and provides guidance and direction.
  • Pertussis is treated with antibiotics. Individuals diagnosed with pertussis and prescribed antibiotics are contagious for the first 5 days of antibiotic treatment. Family members or others living with the infected individual are usually treated as well. Students and staff under treatment for pertussis have a mandatory exclusion period from work or school for 5 full days of antibiotics. The health care provider may order other medications in addition to antibiotics. Most cases of pertussis will resolve eventually without treatment; however, people who are infected and not treated can transmit the disease for 21 days. Even after treatment with antibiotics, cough from pertussis may linger for some time.
  • Pertussis is highly contagious. Bacteria are spread by inhaling infected droplets of a coughing or sneezing person or by direct contact with discharges from a runny nose. Although it is far less likely to for pertussis to be contracted through contact with inanimate objects and surfaces, our custodial department continues to clean surfaces with a product effective against pertussis and other communicable diseases.
  • Symptoms of pertussis usually develop within 5 to 10 days after exposure but may take up to 3 weeks. Cold symptoms usually occur before the cough. Immunized (vaccinated) individuals may not develop the characteristic cough ("whoop").

We urge you to contact your health care provider if your child has cold symptoms that include a cough, even if your child has been immunized for pertussis. Cold and flu symptoms that include cough are very common at this time of year. Your health care provider is in the best position to determine if the symptoms are due to the common cold, flu, asthma, pertussis or other cause. Many health care providers are using the PCR nasopharyngeal swab to diagnose pertussis. Results of this test are usually available in about 48 hours and are considered very reliable. If your health care provider suspects pertussis, the Montgomery County Office of Public Health recommends keeping your child home until lab results are back. Individuals who are diagnosed with pertussis are mandated by the Health Department to stay home from school for five days while undergoing antibiotic treatment.

We encourage parents/guardians of children who are immunocompromised or who have serious or chronic illnesses to contact their health care providers to discuss the recent occurrence of pertussis in the community. Your health care provider can provide guidance and recommendations about your child's unique health issues.

We are in regular contact with the Montgomery County Health Department and follow their directives regarding communicable illness.

Immunization (vaccination) recommendations:

  • If your child is under the age of 7 years and has not received the full recommended vaccination series (DTaP at 2, 4 and 6 months, first booster at 15 -18 months and second booster at 4 - 6 years), please contact your pediatrician and complete the vaccination schedule.
  • Children ages 7 -10 who have not received the full recommended vaccination series should receive a dose of Tdap at the earliest opportunity.
  • Persons between the ages of 11 and 64 who have not received a previous dose of Tdap vaccine should receive a single dose. No minimum interval since a previous dose of Td needs to be observed.
  • Persons aged 65 and older may also receive a single dose of Tdap vaccine, as directed by their primary care physician.

For additional information about pertussis, please click here for a Fact Sheet provided by the Montgomery County Office of Public Health. If you have any further questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to call your health care provider or the Montgomery County Health Department, the Division of Communicable Disease Control at (610) 278-5117. You may also call the LMSD Health Services Office at 610 645-1829.

Sincerely,

Terry Quinlan-Clampffer MEd, RN, CSN
Lead Supervisor of School Health and Student Safety